RGB LAN is a non-descript social affair. With only a few signs and banners hanging around the Expo Center, it would be easy to miss the thing buried deep within its concrete bowels sucking down 50 kilowatts of continuous electricity, the equivalent of running 100 or so microwaves non-stop for an entire three-day weekend. The event is organized by Dave Sylvia, an electrical engineer who, by the time he’s talking to me, is already too exhausted from running around to calculate what the energy bill might look like.
Sylvia’s been helping to organize local area networks (LANs) going on ten years now and it’s clear that the passion for local gaming he started out with is now augmented by the threat of its imminent demise. “I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” he says. “I loved coming to these things. I always had a blast and they’re kind of dying. The LAN is kind of dying because games are going online.”
He’s right. With home WiFi speeds that will let you download an entire music album in a matter of seconds, the idea of getting together in the same room to physically stitch a series of computers together for a few matches of Counter-Strike feels archaic and quaint.
“It used to be that if you wanted to hold a big tournament, you had to bring all the computers together and that was the only way you could do it,” Sylvia says. “Now everything has to be online. And online you lose this sense of community, this sense of fun and excitement, all the energy that’s in a room. And I don’t want that to die.”
Preventing that entails, in this case at least, renting out what almost feels like an oversized storage unit. There are no windows in the space, which feels roughly the size of half a middle school cafeteria. While the attendees, who pay to reserve spots at tables where they can setup and plug in, can play whatever games they want, the RGB LAN also schedules tournaments for specific games. Valve classics like Team Fortress 2 and Couter-Strike:GO are staples, but newer releases have also carved out slots on the schedule. “It’s fun to have classics – you know, Smash 64, stuff like that,” says Sylvia. “But the new ones that are coming in are obviously Overwatch, Rocket League was huge last year and this year.”
This weekend though, the LAN’s surprise breakout game wasn’t a classic FPS or complex MOBA like Dota 2. It was the lo-fi, small budget, side-scrolling fencing game Nidhogg. While Sylvia struggled to find enough teams to compete in the event’s League of Legends tournament, Nidhogg had the room wrapped around its finger the night prior…